There’s no way to know exactly how you will influence your students or how far your influence will reach. Planning and good intentions can fall short of reaching and engaging students if one important element is missing, and that’s a human connection. There’s nothing more certain to make a personal connection with students than tapping into their desire to feel, understand and show empathy. Empathy can have a big impact on even the most disengaged and unmotivated students. Everyone wants to feel they belong, be understood and be accepted.
Why use art appreciation as a visual media to teach empathy? What can students gain by discussing and creating works of art that will help them develop their empathy for others? How does art help students understand each other, build a sense of belonging and acceptance of differences? These questions help me reflect on teaching this year because learning from my students’ perspectives is the most important factor in determining what has worked or not, in helping my students develop a global perspective.
For the past six months, I developed the concept of a K-5 unit on creating art based on the cultures and artistic styles from seven countries around the world to achieve the learning goal that students will gain a global perspective through art. The unit culminates in a school art exhibit that features the artwork students created. The assessment of the unit is not standardized and is based on inquiry, not answers. Students will be asked to develop questions about the artwork and corresponding media related to each display in the QR codes. Their questions will be recorded using a Google form. No answers necessary.
Students’ questions will reveal their thinking and how they wish to learn more about their own and other cultures. Through the process of recording their questions and seeing questions other students post, they will be thinking about and reflecting on what connects us all and what makes us unique. They will have built a foundation in gaining a global perspective through art by representing the world through another point of view that may be different from their own. I hope seeing their artwork makes them feel that their school is made for and by everyone. This sense of belonging and appreciation for others has to be developed in school if we expect to see it on a global scale.